Friday, October 13, 2006

Suppressing Speech From the Left

Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal today, takes a look at attacks on free speech. After discussing four incidents of the left suppressing speech they disagree with, Noonan writes: Let us be more pointed. Students, stars, media movers, academics:
They are always saying they want debate, but they don't. They want their vision imposed. They want to win. And if the win doesn't come quickly, they'll rush the stage, curse you out, attempt to intimidate.

And they don't always recognize themselves to be bullying. So full of their righteousness are they that they have lost the ability to judge themselves and their manner.

And all this continues to come more from the left than the right in America.


What is most missing from the left in America is an element of grace--of civic grace, democratic grace, the kind that assumes disagreements are part of the fabric, but we can make the fabric hold together. The Democratic Party hasn't had enough of this kind of thing since Bobby Kennedy died. What also seems missing is the courage to ask a question. Conservatives these days are asking themselves very many questions, but I wonder if the left could tolerate asking itself even a few. Such as: Why are we producing so many adherents who defy the old liberal virtues of free and open inquiry, free and open speech? Why are we producing so many bullies? And dim dullard ones, at that.
Betsy also points out:
The left are always willing to assert that conservatives are trying to impose some new sort of limitations on freedoms of speech and press. And then, time and again, we see examples of leftists trying to deny those on the right their moments of dissenting. We see this when leftists groups steal conservative newspapers on campus or they disrupt the speeches of conservatives as if merely allowing a conservative to give a talk on a college campus will pollute the clear-thinking minds of today's youth.
Freedom of speech produces more hypocrisy in this country than most rights put together. A personal story can illustrate my point.

At one point in my military career, for about six months, I was a tour guide at the Pentagon, a very cushy duty assignment to be sure. I once had a woman on my tour who was obviously anti-military. Don't ask me why she was touring the Pentagon. One stop on the tour was the Hall of Heroes, a place dedicated to everyone who has won the Congressional Medal of Honor. This was usually a place for me to answer questions and talk to those on the tour--usually kids. This woman came up to me and in a very accusatory manner, said that this shrine to heroes was nothing but a glorification of war and death. I said that while most of the awards were posthumous, many were awarded for helping to save many lives, those of the buddies. In other words they were self-sacrifices, tragic, heroic self-sacrifices. She responded that she couldn't believe it and that I was lying and nothing but a war-mongering idiot incapable of understanding other people and that war was not a solution.

So I tried a different track. I asked her if she was willing to concede that we each had positions and things that were very valuable to us. She agreed and I asked if she were willing to die for her beliefs and those things she held dear. With some hesitation, she said yes. I asked if she were willing to concede that I was willing to do the same for my beliefs. She agreed. Finally, I asked if she were willing to die for my beliefs. She said no. I responded, to the deligh of several veterans on the tour, "that is teh difference between you and my shipmates and I, we are willing to die so that you can believe what you want."

The point of the story is that if the left holds dear free speech, as they say they do, they must be willing to allow any and all speakers to step up to the microphone. Otherwise their hypocrisy becomes all that remains. I am not saying that the right is always without hypocrisy on this matter, because they are not. However, I believe that the right has a far better understanding of the First Amendment than the left--and it shows.

Update: Sister Toldjah has a lot more examples. Like this one:
And how about Bill Clinton’s lawyers trying to intimidate ABC into not merely ‘correcting’ but pulling ABC’s docudrama Path to 9/11 because ABC didn’t follow the liberal apologist line of “Clinton fought hard against the terrorists, and was obsessed with OBL”? Or the Demofascists in the Senate who issued a veiled threat against ABC to pull their broadcast license if they didn’t pull Path to 9-11?

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